The big news out of Iraq today is a report that sources in the accountability and justice board say they have written to the Iraqi elections commission (IHEC) to have the name of candidate number 10 for the State of Law list in Najaf, Abbud Wahid al-Eisawi, struck from the ballot paper. Eisawi is a tribal adviser to Nuri al-Maliki.
Regardless of whether this will actually come to pass or not, the case has two dimensions. Firstly it proves that the forces behind the de-Baathification process wanted this issue to define the Iraqi political climate throughout the period leading up to the elections. With exclusions – or possibilities of exclusions – still being discussed at this late stage, one senses a kind of politics that is characteristic of neighbouring Iran, rather than one that is reminiscent of democracy in the liberal tradition.
Secondly, this development underlines the extent to which the Iraqi National Alliance was always in the lead in the de-Baathification process, and that Maliki was following after. Of course, eventually some Maliki adherents in the governorates went even further than INA in inventing new procedures for excluding political enemies.
The question now is whether Maliki will use this affair to make a last-minute, much-overdue public verdict on the whole flawed de-Baathification process. Reinstating some former officers in the army isn’t enough; it is the collapse of the rule of law that needs to be addressed. Conversely, the stance of Iraqiyya, which has been critical of de-Baathification all the way (and one of its major victims) will also be interesting. Rumours continue to swirl as to its possible post-election alliance with INA, which would be a veritable sell-out and a sorry end to the whole de-Baathification affair – an INA creation where Iraqiyya has always been at the receiving end.
The Iraqi elections still feature intra-Shiite competition. But they are a competition in de-Baathification rarther than a contest in national leadership.